AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

The Buddhist temple Koreans built in Japan

Posted by ampontan on Friday, March 20, 2009

THERE’S NO TELLING what’ll turn up when someone sticks a spade into the ground in Japan. In Okinawa, as we saw in this recent post, the diggers might strike undetonated bombs or artillery shells buried since the Second World War. More often, however, what they’ll uncover are fascinating glimpses of periods dating back more than a millennium.

Digging a hole

Digging a hole

That was demonstrated again last week when the Education Committee of Hirakata, Osaka, and the city’s cultural treasure research and survey association announced they had discovered a trench used to cast iron and bronze utensils at Kudara-ji, a Buddhist temple in that city.

Here’s where it gets interesting: The temple was built in the latter half of the 8th century by members of the Baekche royal family from the Korean Peninsula who fled to Japan. In fact, it was named for them: the Chinese characters for Baekche (百済) are read Kudara in Japanese.

One of the three ancient Korean kingdoms, Baekche was located in the southwestern part of the peninsula, an area that still maintains close ties with Japan. It wound up the loser in frequent battles with Silla and Goguryo, the other two kingdoms. Some members of its royal family dashed across the Korea Strait after the kingdom’s defeat by Silla and their Chinese allies. Japan sent a substantial military force to fight with Baekche, and it’s estimated that as many as half of that force did not return home after being beaten. Meanwhile, the transplanted Baekche royal family is credited with introducing the Chinese writing system, Buddhism, and the advanced technology of the period to this country. Indeed, one of the Baekche kings, Muryeong, was born in Kyushu. (He ascended to the throne after his elder brother was assassinated.)

The researchers think they’ve discovered the remnants of the facility used to build the temple and make the implements used there. Only a handful of these facilities have been unearthed nationwide, so scholars consider the find important because it may shed light on the structure of the temple buildings of the time.

The committee said they found a pit 2.5 meters in circumference at the northeast section of the site used for the placement of casting molds. In addition to iron and bronze utensils nearby, they found about 300 shards from a melting furnace which is thought to have been used for casting.

They also found the remains of six posts, which they think formed a gateway at the northern wall. About 500 meters to the north of that gate is the site of ruins in Kinyahon-machi. The researchers say the find tends to confirm the close connection between the latter district and the Baekche royal family, which was given preferential treatment by the Japanese state at the time–including intermarriage with the Imperial family.

City officials noted that in addition to aiding research into temple structure of the period, the discovery is important because it provides further support for the idea that the Baekche royal family enjoyed great influence in that area from the Nara period to the Heian period (covering the 8th century).

There is another significant aspect to this story that city officials might have mentioned had they been disposed to do so. Namely, some ungenerous expatriate foreigners in Japan, as well as some South Koreans misinformed by the political and media axis in that country, labor under the belief that Japanese do not care to be reminded of their ancient ties with the Korean Peninsula and the impact those ties had on their culture.

Yet this story about a temple named after Koreans was openly and widely reported in the Japanese news media. The reports also noted that archaeological excavations have been conducted at this site since 1932.

Or, to take it to another level of detail, the Baekche kingdom itself was founded by people who headed south down the peninsula from Manchuria. So who’s your daddy, daddy-o?

All of which suggests that the Nippo-crits might be less informed on this subject than the Japanese public they hold in such disdain.

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25 Responses to “The Buddhist temple Koreans built in Japan”

  1. pochp said

    I wonder how the Japanese public would treat the temple.
    Would they respect it being Korean?

  2. Anymouse said

    If you go by the rule “only english speakers are british” and therefore “only sillans were korean”, the present day Japanese and Koreans wouldn’t have a reason to like or dislike this temple for nationalist reasons.

  3. Martin F said

    Very interesting! If you are in Tokyo, please extend a visit to Koma, a small town in Hidaka City, Saitama with an ancient shrine that very clearly and proudly talksa about its amazing 1300 year old links to refugees from the Korean peninsula who were allowed to live here. The current head priest is a direct descendant of the original family – and note that he is a shinto priest. Koma Jinja is dedicated to Komanozako, who is believed to be a member of Koguryo royal family who fled to Japan after the kingdom collapsed.

    http://www.komajinja.or.jp/

    So, to answer Pochp’s question, Japanese people respect such temples (Todaiji in Nara is also well known to have been built by skilled carpenters introducing new techniques from the mainland – see for example Tetsuka Ozamu’s famous manga called “Buddha” for more) and even shrines, although there aren’t that many of them.

  4. Bender said

    The belief that the Japanese are reluctant to acknowledge Korean influence is stuff of crap urban legend. Actually, it’s probably the other way around.

  5. kushibo said

    In the 1990s I visited the National Museum of Natural History (?) in Ueno Park, where a display on the origins of the Japanese people said that Korea “exerted great genetic influence” on Japan. A circumlocutory way to say Japanese (largely) came from Korea. Does anyone know if it that kind of thing is still there?

  6. urban legend? said

    Bender wrote: The belief that the Japanese are reluctant to acknowledge Korean influence is stuff of crap urban legend. Actually, it’s probably the other way around.

    –> Ask japanese and see how many japanese are willing to admit that most of ancient japanese cultures were imported by korean people.

    Some of them may indirectly agree saying that those cultures were actually (chinense origin), and transfered from china to japan (through koreans).

    If that’s what you think is a honest way of admiting korean influence, most of koreans are as much honest as japanese in admitting japanese influence, saying ‘many of modern (civilizations having western origins) were imported to korea (through japanese).

  7. Jason said

    Actually, before you publish such comments, you may want to verify your sources and your world atlas. Baekche was not founded by people who came down from Mongolia. It is recorded that the founders of the Baekche kingdom in 18 BC came down from Koguryo (or Goguryeo) which was the northern kingdom of ancient Korea and which territory expanded north to where Manchuria is (not Mongolia). It’s possible that you mixed up Manchuria and Mongolia (not the same), but even if you did, they were not Manchurians at that time in history, but the ancient Koreans of Koguryo. But in the end, you are correct when you say “who’s your daddy?”..as this question can be extended on and on in terms of cultures (and histories) that cross borders and bounderies. The question would be: How far would you like to go back? There’s no denying Japanese culture and history was heavily influenced and mixed in by ancient Koreans, but I will give them their due by saying they have done quite a credible job of making things “Japanese” after the 9th or 10th century.

  8. ampontan said

    I meant to write Manchuria and not Mongolia, and mixed them up when switching from the source to the text. Thanks for pointing that out.

  9. Jason said

    Kushibo, I was actually in Japan in 2005 when they had a special Exhibition at that museum in Ueno Park titled “Jomon VS Yayoi” and there were many displays that explained the genetic relationship between the Koreans and Yayoi period Japanese. Here is the link to that exhibit info: http://www.rekihaku.ac.jp/e_news/index93/index.html. It was a pretty interesting exhibit, although all in Japanese and so I had my friend interpret most of it for me (my Japanese is limited).

  10. Aceface said

    “A circumlocutory way to say Japanese (largely) came from Korea. Does anyone know if it that kind of thing is still there?”

    Well,that’s how you describe things “academically”,I guess.
    Anyway Japanese=Korean theory is a taboo now in Japan because that was the very ideology that legimitize the annexation.
    One thing Korean doesn’t understand along with the fact that Japanese don’t really feel obliged to pander the Korean ethno-centrilsm.

  11. Aceface said

    Related:

    http://cominganarchy.com/2006/09/30/the-kushibo-phenomenon/

  12. kushibo said

    Well,that’s how you describe things “academically”,I guess.

    Ha ha. I guess that’s true, though it sounds circumlocutory even by academic standards. Academics (when they’re being careful about language) tend to speak in cover-all-bases generalities or in precise specifics so that they can’t be refuted. I guess this is an example of the former.

    Anyway Japanese=Korean theory is a taboo now in Japan because that was the very ideology that legimitize the annexation.

    True that.

    In Korea, though, I think the fact that this was the “legitimizing ideology” is largely forgotten. Koreans have been taught in school much more about attempts not to connect Japan and Korea ethnically but to turn Korea into Japan culturally.

    One thing Korean doesn’t understand along with the fact that Japanese don’t really feel obliged to pander the Korean ethno-centrilsm.

    I’m not sure how this would be pandering to Korean ethnocentrism. There’s either a common genetic root in the middle of the first millennium A.D. or there isn’t, with a second debate on the degree of strength of the common root.

    I, for one, would like for this to be better known (if it’s true) just because it would help deflate mindless anti-Japanese sentiment that still persists in some parts of Korean society.

  13. M-Bone said

    “exerted great genetic influence”

    Kushibo, is this your direct translation of the Japanese or was it written in this way in crappy English on the display?

    As for great Korean influence on Japan / migration to Japan through Korea, it is detailed in every credible Japanese history book that you will find…. and even some not so credible ones – even the “New History Textbook”(s) acknowledge this.

    To say that Korean/Chinese influence is downplayed in contemporary Japan is a gross distortion.

    But… I agree with Jason that 1000+ years is enough time to start talking about Japan and a Japanese culture. The Britons, for example, don’t talk about their Roman period that much.

  14. tomojiro said

    “But… I agree with Jason that 1000+ years is enough time to start talking about Japan and a Japanese culture. The Britons, for example, don’t talk about their Roman period that much.”

    Exactly. Romans are not “Italians” inasmuch as ancient “korean” and “chinese” are not modern Korean or Chinese.

    The projection of modern consciousness of nation to the ancient history is itself a great problem. 1,000 years ago, there are hardly any “Japanese” or “Korean” or “Chinese “ in the modern sense.

    That there were many historical influences from the peninsula, influences to the ancient royal court in Japan included, is hardly a controversial fact. Although because of the pre-modern history of “common ancestry of Japanese and Korean” which was used to justify the annexion of Korea, it was political incorrect to emphasize that for a quite long time in post war Japan among progressive intellectuals.

  15. Bender said

    Ask japanese and see how many japanese are willing to admit that most of ancient japanese cultures were imported by korean people.

    You do it.

    BTW, I’m amazed how you folks are reminiscent of National Socialists circa 1938. Just replace “Aryan” with “Korean”.

  16. Aceface said

    “I’m not sure how this would be pandering to Korean ethnocentrism.”

    Discussion over Japanese identity is normally revolves around “Who and what had influenced to be what we originated”and we start searching beyond our borders,or so that is at least in the post war years.

    Discussion over Korean identity is normally revolves around “Whom and what we had originated”and start searching beyond their borders.

    The former is a multiculturalism of a sort,and the latter is an ethnocentrism,Me thinks.

    ” There’s either a common genetic root in the middle of the first millennium A.D. or there isn’t, with a second debate on the degree of strength of the common root.”

    Well,these are questions that remain unanswered for we need more evidences from archaeology and anthropology to say something more concrete.But in the meantime,“exerted great genetic influence on Japan” meme would do the task.

  17. Korean1Professor said

    Korean influence on Japan??? Truth always reveals at the end. You can always say shit online. The historical reality is truth always reveals itself. How many times Japanese say there are unique and isolated. Genes, land reveals the truth. Korean influence is alot deeper then average japanese or people think.

  18. Tony said

    @Korean1Professor – you seem to be missing a point here touched upon in comments by Tomojiro and others. The nationalities that what we now call Korean and Japanese are no more related to the ancient Korean culture than Britons are to the Romans and Normans. All it means is that both the Japanese and Koreans came from the same bifurcated branch, if you will. A branch that was in what is now Korea but whose base was in Manchuria and Koguryo. That base is part of another branch and so on. Which is why A. asked the question “Who’s your daddy daddy-o?” in the first place. (pssst, if you need the answer told to you it’s “the same dad as you have”).

  19. askkorean1 said

    tony, you seem to be missing the big point. Korea had three kingdoms ( Korguryo, Baekje, Shilla) all three Korean Kingdoms were controlled and populated by Buyo tribal groups who were direct Korean ancestors. How can you compare Korean Kingdoms with british??? British island were populated by Germanic tribe. Your logic does not make any sense. Why is there a english word called ” Origin”??? Every nation, Every People, Every culture has Past, Present Origin. If Japanese racial and cultural origin isn’t Korean. Then were did Japanese people and culture came from??? Planet Pluto??? “Who’s your daddy daddy-0?” ET???? Your historical logic is a moron!!!

  20. Aceface said

    That’s right,Tony.
    And not only Koreans came from Pluto,they also invented it.

  21. Tony said

    Askkorean1, I cannot argue with your logic because there isn’t any! You miss the point as well. What you refer to as Korean Kingdoms are not Korea. They existed in what is now Korea but the country of Korea didn’t exist then, so any claims that those kingdoms are Korean is wrong. To be correct your logic would work this way; feces comes out of my ass, so it must have been feces that went into my mouth. That is hardly correct as you must know.

    I am saying Japan and Korea share the same genetic origin (racial is not the correct word when talking about genetics), it’s just that origin in no more Korean than it is Japanese. I hope you can understand that, the logic is simple. If not then as Aceface says, you must come from Pluto.

  22. Aceface said

    Just come up with a new idea on perpetual motion.

  23. Andrew in Ezo said

    What’s the deal with re-starting comments on long-dead threads? (I’m talking to the K posters). It just shows knee-jerk personality complexes.
    —————–
    AIE: To be fair, they probably weren’t aware of those posts when they were written and recently discovered them.

    Also, it is not accurate to say “they”. “He” chose different names to send in comments under.

    It could be worse. On American website recently, they caught a guy who created two different identities and began arguing with himself. No, I’m not making that up!

    – A.

  24. […] Source: The Buddhist temple Koreans built in Japan […]

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